$1M for Chicago church went to 'wrong place'

March 3, 2008 5:14:19 PM PST
Governor Blagojevich says he plans to make good on a pledge to give Chicago's Pilgrim Baptist Church $1 million in state funding to rebuild.The governor promised the money two years ago when the landmark South Side church was destroyed by fire. But the funding went to a school that had no affiliation with the church.

The historic Pilgrim Baptist Church is a shell of its former self. Its façade is braced after the fire destroyed the chapel and its administration building. A political firestorm erupted when a promised $1 million from Governor Blagojevich didn't make it to the church.

"I'm frustrated, and I'm angry about those who worked for me who allowed this to happen," said Blagojevich.

But on Monday, the governor stood with church leadership to announce another $1 million commitment that the governor insures will go to the right place.

"I never had any doubt, as I said to some of the reporters that have spoke with me, any doubt of his confidence and his commitment to Pilgrim Baptist Church," said Robert Vaughn, Pilgrim Baptist Church.

"It never was a doubt in my mind that the governor was going to make good on his commitment to the Pilgrim Baptist Church for the administrative and daycare building," said Cynthia Jones, Pilgrim Baptist Church.

The state paid the initial $1 million to a school that used space in the church. The governor's advisor and a former state senator are now investigating the school and how the money is being used.

"We have sent a letter out, and we have staff talking to them today. And we will be meeting with them, but we have no indication that this is not a real program," said State Rep. Elga Jefferies, (D) Chicago.

"I'm hopeful that it will turn out, and this was a mix up that will do more good than harm. And the mistake is that a school that is educating kids, providing daycare and preschool gets another $1 million, that's a good mistake to make," said Carol Ronen, governor's advisor.

ABC7 was unable to find that school or the school's director. As for the church and its new $1 million, they have to apply for it, but the governor says he has spent all day trying to make sure that the $1 million is available. But it will be about 30 to 45 days before it's official. And this $1 million will go to rebuild the administration building and rebuild its educational programs as well as its food pantry and other services needed in this community.